Apr 15, 2017

Easy Come, Easy Go: Tattoo Removal Isn’t Such a Big Deal Now

Reporting Texas

Anthony Carrasco, of Fresh Start Laser Tattoo Removal Clinic in North Austin, describes to Taylor Glascow, 14, how a laser will work below the skin's surface to lighten ink from a tattoo on Glascow’s hip during an appointment on Feb. 20, 2017. Betsy Joles / Reporting Texas

Anthony Carrasco, a technician at Fresh Start Laser Tattoo Removal in Austin, explains to Taylor Glascow how he’ll erase the tattoo on her right hip. Betsy Joles / Reporting Texas

KYLE, Texas — Taylor Glascow, a freshman at Jack C. Hays High School in nearby Buda, got her first tattoo last year from a friend, who used a sewing needle and ink from a ballpoint pen to draw a heart and cross on Glascow’s right hip.

Kyle and Buda are small towns along Interstate 35 in Hays County between Austin and San Marcos.

“It was just me and my friends doing something really stupid,” said the 14-year-old in an interview.

It wasn’t long before Glascow’s mother, Jamé Cearley, discovered the tattoo. Cearley, a 38-year-old stay-at-home mom, ordered it removed.

“I was furious with her,” Cearley said in an interview. “She was just being a silly teenager, I guess.”

Cearley has tattoos herself, but she didn’t get her first until after she turned 18.

Ordered by mom or not, more people are getting tattoos removed. According to a February 2016 report by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, removals nationwide rose 37 percent from 2015. A 2017 report from Groupon Inc., an online coupon company, ranked Austin first in the country for tattoo obliteration.

According to a report by Marketwatch.com, an online financial news provider, the U.S. tattoo removal market grew 440 percent, to $75.5 million, over the decade ending in 2015. The growth in removals has increased as the number of tattoos has risen, according to Future Market Insights, a market data firm. The availability of laser removal techniques, which are less painful and cheaper than older methods, has also fueled demand.

Mike Livermore, founder and owner of Medermis Laser Clinic in Austin, said in a telephone interview that the spread of laser facilities explains a lot of the surge in demand for removals.

“It just looks like it’s more popular because more people are offering the service,” he said.

Austin’s online Yellow Pages directory lists 90 tattoo businesses and 24 removal clinics. In 2006, there were 28 tattoo businesses and four removal clinics. Livermore’s business was the first in Austin 11 years ago. He says in the past two years, he’s seen eight new clinics in the area.

“The efficacy of the laser is so much better than it was 10 years ago,” said Timothy Hill, owner of Fresh Start Laser Clinic in North Austin, in a telephone interview. He says the technology has made it easier and more lucrative for newcomers to join the market.

According to Future Market Insights, removing a tattoo costs between $100 and $500, with each tattoo taking up to 10 laser sessions.

“Almost 90 percent of people who get tattoos regret them at some stage,” he said of his personal experience. “We’re at the peak of the tattoo industry right now. As long as the tattoo industry is doing well, there will be a need for removal.”

In Glascow’s case, she accommodated her mother without much bother. Fresh Start is removing her tattoo at no cost, as it does for all minors. Anthony Carrasco, a removal technician at Fresh Start since July 2016, said services start at $39 a session, with six or eight treatments needed to remove a tattoo.

Glascow doesn’t regret her experience, though. “I would definitely get another tattoo,” she said, but next time will wait till she’s older and avoid the risk and randomness of a home tattoo by going to a professional. “It’s a life lesson learned,” she said.